Concise, critical reviews of books, exhibitions, and projects in all areas and periods of art history and visual studies

Reviews in are published continuously by CAA and Taylor & Francis, with the most recently published reviews listed below. Browse reviews based on geographic region, period or cultural sphere, or specialty (from 1998 to the present) using Review Categories in the sidebar or by entering terms in the search bar above.

Recently Published Reviews

Bernadette Fort
Paris: Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, 1998. 380 pp. Paper $170.00 (2840560666)
Bernadette Fort has performed an important service by editing this new edition of the reviews of the biennial Salons or officially sponsored art exhibitions originally published in that remarkable 18th-century French periodical, the Memoires secrets. The eleven Salon reviews included in the volume, spanning the last two decades of the old regime, are one of the most important sources we have to document contemporary reactions to the painting and sculpture of this period, that saw the shift from Rococo to neoclassical and the emergence of such talents as Jacques-Louis David and Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun. These reviews also represent an important… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Pamela M. Lee
MIT Press, 1999. 240 pp.; 99 b/w ills. Paper (0262122200)
Pamela M. Lee presents a compelling theory of Gordon Matta-Clark's art in her monographic study. Her book is well-written and intelligent, and offers a thought-provoking discussion that positions his art in the historical, political, social, and aesthetic context of his period. In her introduction, Lee lays out her principle argument, that Matta-Clark's practice of disassembly and cutting of derelict buildings slated for demolition represents a process of "unbuilding" that leaves nothing but fragments of documentary photographs and films. Lee believes that Matta-Clark "ultimately denied the [art] work's condition of possibility," and that he deconstructed architecture through "shifts in scale and… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Stephen Little
Berkeley: University of California Press in association with Art Institute of Chicago, 1999. 112 pp.; 82 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (0520220455)
Recent studies of China's remarkable tradition of scholar's rocks have begun to reveal that these, together with the better-known outdoor garden rocks, form a unique Chinese sculptural tradition as aesthetically sophisticated and as deep in meaning as other world traditions in sculpture. As John Hay observed (Hay, "The Body Invisible in Chinese Art?" in Angela Zito and Tani E. Barlow, eds., Body, Subject and Power in China, Chicago, 1994), "The classical image of the Western tradition is the Apollo or the Venus. The classical image of the Chinese tradition is the rock" (68). The aesthetic interest of this tradition… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Dan Graham
Ed Alexander Alberro MIT Press, 1998. 198 pp.; 48 b/w ills. Paper $25.00 (0262571307)
Following Video/Architecture/Television: Writings on Video and Video Works 1970-1978, edited by Benjamin H. Buchloh (Halifax: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; New York: New York University Press, 1979), now out of print, and MIT's own Rock My Religion: Writings and Art Projects 1965-1990, edited by Brian Wallis, with its upbeat design and wide range of supporting illustrations, this is the third major compilation of writings by New York artist Dan Graham. As the textual architecture and thematic arrangement of the volume, its relation to these predecessors, and Graham's writing styles and occasions are… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Sally M. Promey
Princeton University Press, 1999. 376 pp.; 13 color ills.; 146 b/w ills. Cloth $52.50 (0691015651)
A host of contemporary scholarly contributions to the literature on John Singer Sargent has enlarged and refined considerably our knowledge and understanding of the painter's work and life. Molly Crawford Volk, Trevor Fairbrother, Jane Dini, Miriam Stewart, Kerry Schauber, Erika Hirschler, and Sally M. Promey have of late facilitated a symbiotic discourse, through publications and exhibitions, that makes for a thick stew of accounts staking claims that often read as an ongoing dialogue committed to arguing out the many and complicated issues that subtend Sargent's art from the standpoint of context, intention, reception, and biography. Sargent's current popularity… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Elise Goodman
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 185 pp.; many b/w ills. Cloth (0520217942)
Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pompadour, was one of the most persistently pictured women of her time. During her career as official mistress of Louis XV of France (1745-64), artists such as François Boucher, François-Hubert Drouais, and Maurice-Quentin de La Tour represented her in a variety of contexts, from elegantly decorated interiors to lush garden bowers, and accompanied by a variety of objects, including books, prints, and musical instruments. In this book, Elise Goodman argues that a significant number of these portraits--five of a corpus of fifteen--were designed to portray Pompadour as a "femme savante," or "a woman of learning and… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Philip K. Hu
Queens Borough Public Library in association with Morning Glory Publishers and Art Media Resources, 2000. 370 pp.; 180 color ills. Paper $65.00 (0964533715)
This exhibition and its accompanying catalogue bring together for the first time in the United States a dazzling variety of Chinese rare books, rubbings and maps from the extensive holdings of the National Library of China, Beijing. This joint enterprise was organized by the National Library of China and the Queens Borough Public Library as part of an on-going effort to increase international professional cooperation and information exchange between these two institutions. While the quality and importance of the objects would easily argue for a major museum venue for this exhibition, the decision to use major public libraries was made… Full Review
August 23, 2000
James Meyer, ed.
Phaidon, 2005. 304 pp.; 186 color ills.; 110 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (071484523X)
James Meyer's Minimalism is a large, weighty book, filled with pictures, in between which are crammed immense amounts of information, ranging from snippets of commentary to exhaustive philosophical analyses. The middle section of this tripartite tome contains most of the illustrations, each of which is captioned with a Cliff's-Notes-like summary. Many are very insightful and precise, providing information on materials, size, scale, and proportions along with abbreviated, sometimes amusing, interpretations. The caption writer, identified as Catherine Caesar in the author's acknowledgements, relates an anecdote about a shipment, identified as "paper," of Robert Ryman's Classico paintings to Germany. When customs officials… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Anne Bermingham
Yale University Press, 2000. 304 pp.; 130 color ills.; 140 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0300080395)
Ann Bermingham's eagerly awaited new book, Learning to Draw, is about much more than the development of drawing practices. As the subtitle, Studies in the Cultural History of a Polite and Useful Art, suggests, this is a wider history of the formation of the individual as a subject in (visual) culture. It analyzes the way drawing "resulted in an aestheticization of the self and the things of everyday life," a phenomenon that Bermingham sees as an important characteristic of the modern period (ix). This excellent book is difficult to fairly summarize and characterize for it is such an… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Mark Ledbury
Voltaire Foundation, 2000. 366 pp.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $98.00 (0729407039)
Writing on the Salon of 1755, the abbé de la Porte concluded his enthusiastic review of Jean-Baptiste Greuze with the phrase, "One would like to know him." (quoted in Munhall, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 11). This comment is ambiguous, since, despite his longing to know Greuze, it was apparently clear to the abbé that the work and the man were not transparent reflections of each other. For modern audiences, such longing is puzzling: we think we know Greuze all too well. Even some of the most scholarly accounts have stressed his eccentricity and vanity, his penchant for painting pathetic adolescents and domestic… Full Review
August 22, 2000
William E. Wallace
Hong Kong: Hugh Laueter Levin Associates, 1998. 267 pp.; 139 color ills.; 133 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0883632071)
There are, I'm sure, many people in the world who feel that no more can be said about Michelangelo and that, really, no more ought to be said. At the same time, there seems to be no limit to the number of people who simply want to look at his work--crowds are undiminished at the Sistine Chapel, and large-scale, lavishly-produced picture books continue to be made. In recent years, these books have been rather selective: the many variants of glorious restorations, the early work, and the sculpture. Therefore, a need did exist for a monographic volume, and William Wallace's book… Full Review
August 18, 2000
Robert S. Nelson
Cambridge University Press, 2000. (0521652227)
"Visuality" is to vision as sexuality is to sex; that is, visuality presents the discourse and particularized cultural habits of viewing art, layered upon the physiology of vision itself. This is a term that has been cropping up more frequently in art historical writing lately, e.g. Craig Clunas, Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China (Princeton, 1998), but it has received little theorizing or application in multiple cultures prior to this volume. Its editor, Robert Nelson, will be known to the discipline from his own recent anthology of critical discourse, Critical Terms for Art History (Chicago, 1996; coedited with Richard… Full Review
August 3, 2000
David Carrier
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. 140 pp.; many b/w ills. Cloth $29.95 (027101962X)
This book is a free-flowing philosophical rumination about an art-form to which the author has been addicted since a child (as such he appears on the dust-jacket), and which he rightly considers to have been unfairly marginalized by art and cultural history (ignored for instance by CAA publications)--not to speak of philosophy and aesthetics. The book breathes a relaxed air, despite its rather daunting frame of scholarly reference, mitigated by a cozy reflex to begin each chapter with an autobiographical snippet. The book is loosely constructed and wanders casually among weighty philosophical truisms and concrete examples of comics, idiosyncratically chosen… Full Review
July 27, 2000
William Vaughan and Helen Weston
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 192 pp.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0521563372)
William Vaughan and Helen Weston are contributing editors to this volume in a recently launched series by Cambridge University Press, Masterpieces of Western Painting. Each volume in the series offers a group of essays on a single painting by specialists in the field representing different methodological perspectives. The objective is to provide a concise history and reassessment of paintings that belong to the Western canon. A volume of this nature devoted to David's Marat is timely since the field of David studies has undergone an intense period of revitalization over the past decade, launched by the 1989 David retrospective… Full Review
July 26, 2000
Peter Lunenfeld
MIT Press, 2000. 240 pp.; 41 b/w ills. $32.95 (026212226X)
Peter Lunenfeld, ed.
MIT Press, 1999. 298 pp.; 0 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Paper $17.95 (0262122138)
It is no coincidence that many of the new theorists of technology and telesis are based in California--ever on the edge of tomorrow, but also host to the primary commercial market for digital imagery: the movie industry. The hybrid members of the digerati can present different faces to the world depending on the venue: artist, theorist, computer scientist, professor, robotics engineer, program designer, or supplier. A hefty cadre of these transprofessionals work and think from the San Francisco Bay area, a McLuhan unit's distance away from the throbbing belly of the media beast, yet still proximate to vassal lords such… Full Review
July 19, 2000